After Impressive Preseason, Rodgers Among Many Excited for Team's Potential

Aaron Rodgers and company are no strangers to the offseason hype.

It seems as if every year, the Packers are in the mix to contend for a Super Bowl. And, rightfully so. They have arguably the most talented quarterback to ever step foot on the gridiron.

Rodgers, however, can't do it alone.

After January's crushing defeat at the hands of the eventual NFC champion Atlanta Falcons in the final game played inside the Georgia Dome, the Packers had evident deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball.

Needs that general manager Ted Thompson needed to address.

He did.

The Packers signed their most free agents (eight and counting) since the 2006 offseason, and six of them—soon-to-be seven once Ahmad Brooks officially inks his deal—are over the age of 28 and have at least seven years of experience in the NFL.

The goal was to get younger, faster, versatile. They didn't do that through free agency.

Instead, Thompson used the draft to stock up on the defensive side of the ball, going defense-heavy with his first four selections—Kevin King, Josh Jones, Montravius Adams and Vince Biegel, respectively—and saving free agency to enforce the mental needs on his roster.

The six veterans signed in free agency over the offseason provide players who have been there, done that, and who can help the younger guys at their specific positions.

Davon House could help the younger cornerbacks as he's shown.

Ricky Jean Francois could provide pointers alongside Mike Daniels for Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry: two players primed to make a significant jump in their second seasons. 

Jahri Evans, the oldest player (34) on the Packers' roster, could lead the way for sixth-round pick Kofi Amichia and Lucas Patrick along the offensive line.

Rodgers and Evans talk on the sideline during the Packers' exhibition game against the Redskins. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

It would seem as if the Packers' front office did everything in their power—everything practical, at least—to ensure a deep postseason run, much like they do every year. However, in 2017, the stakes appear higher. Urgent.

"The exciting thing about this team is that there's a lot of potential," Rodgers told Packers TV Network sideline reporter Lance Allan during Thursday night's preseason finale. "There's a lot of young guys who need to step up and play well for us. We have enough veterans that we've added to the mix. The guys who have gotten older as the years have passed who we count on to play big roles for us."

One advantage the Packers have offensively this season is the versatility offered by running back Ty Montgomery being able to split out and line up as a receiver, as well as the different personnel packages provided by Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks: two tight ends who bring their own skill packages to the table.

"The identity of the offense is going to evolve throughout the season," Rodgers said of both Bennett and Kendricks, two of the aforementioned six veteran free agent signings. "We'd love to do more two tight-end sets with those guys."

"I think Richard [Rodgers], though, don't forget about him. He's had a great camp for us, he's done an outstanding job even with a broken finger. ... We've got three legit tight ends."

In what could be the most explosive season in offensive terms since Rodgers' first of two MVP campaigns in 2011, the Packers seem to be locked-and-loaded on both sides of the ball. The only concern as of late has been the depth at certain positions, such as outside linebacker and the offensive line.

Despite the injuries sustained in these areas, head coach Mike McCarthy was adamant that the wounded players, such as Bryan Bulaga, Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, will be good to go for the Packers' regular season opener against Seattle.

If the offensive line were to run a little thin during the season, Rodgers—being his typically elusive self—likely won't have any problems evading any imposing pass rush.

When the Packers reported to offseason team activities back in April, Rodgers was elated about his health. His goal was to remain under 220 pounds, and with a bullseye, he hit his target.

Rodgers, 33, told ESPN's Rob Demovsky at the time that he felt like he was in the best shape he's ever been in starting an offseason program. Entering the "back-nine" of his career, as Rodgers would call it, preserving his health is a necessity.

Rodgers during warmups before the Packers' preseason finale against the Rams. (Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports)

In present day, Rodgers is likely hovering around the same vicinity in terms of weight. He's made clear improvements to his overall physique in the midst of gearing up for the season.

"I think every year we get a little smarter with our program," Rodgers said. "Mike [McCarthy] does a great job. He's always trying to be in the lead as far as innovation and adapting the schedule. We have an outstanding nutritionist who takes care of us and helps us eat right."

After a league-leading 40 passing touchdowns and just seven interceptions a season ago, it'll be tough for Rodgers to eclipse what he did. Especially after engineering a late-season run to win six in a row and "run the table" from 4-6 to 10-6. 

But, with his new offensive weapons and a revamped defense, nothing is out of the cards.

"They've done an incredible job of making this a great place for us to have everything we possibly need to be ready to play. So, I'm really appreciative of what the organization has done. And, you know, we're all in good shape at this point. It's about getting ready to go out and play next week."

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (8)

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croatpackfan's picture

September 01, 2017 at 05:48 am

If Aaron said so, who are we to doubt?

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Lphill's picture

September 01, 2017 at 06:07 am

This season may produce one of the Packers best defensive lines in a long time , Ringo is a beast , Clark also , we know about Daniels , mix in Francois and Lowery and this group can be dangerous , all this pressure up front will help the secondary as well as the pass rush , I think we are going to see a lot of Brooks and Perry on the outside and Clay coming from the middle . Dom has plenty of weapons now , no excuses .

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HankScorpio's picture

September 01, 2017 at 06:25 am

On offense, I hope they don't get enamored with no huddle and instead choose constant variation of the 5 skill position players between WR, TE & RB. I think that is far more effective in keeping defenses off balance. Not to mention it tends to keep the offense on the field longer.

But that dynamic applies equally to defense. Capers has come up with some innovation personnel groupings over the years. Those groupings have proven effective when mixed in even if a heavy dose of them doesn't really work. For example, the addition of Brooks allows Capers to spot Matthews inside on occasion. They have a good group of Safeties that bring different skills to the table. Mixing them up based on situation can be a very effective strategy.

Bottom line is that the more of the roster they use, the better off they will be, IMO.

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porupack's picture

September 02, 2017 at 04:29 am

Excellent strategy Hankscorp.

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Handsback's picture

September 01, 2017 at 07:42 am

I said it before and will repeat it.....this offense will be at least as good if not better than the 2011 year. The defense is close to the defense of 2010. The exception is not having a CMIII in his prime. The Dline is solid if not a little scary, and the back-end very effective.
I'm a fan and I think a fair judge of talent, all that being said....this team should go to the SB!

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cheesehead1's picture

September 01, 2017 at 09:11 am

I hope you're right about this D being close to 2010, we shall see. Still hope TT adds some O Line depth.

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Bearmeat's picture

September 01, 2017 at 03:37 pm

Seahawks DL just got nastier on paper. Hope the starting 5 stay healthy. Our backup line is a nightmare against them.

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porupack's picture

September 02, 2017 at 04:48 am

Let's not get overly hyped:

I applaud most of offseason moves. Some moves on offense (gaining Bennet/Kendricks) were positive and excellent, and offsets the negative moves re; Oline (losing Lang, Trettor, Cooks, Lacy). Add the unproven potential of draftees....the net impact is positive gain over last year.
On D, it is about even overall; though some marginal gain; positives (RJF, Brooks, House) about equal to losses (outgoing Peppers, Guion, Jones) and infuse unproven potential of draftees....should be a net improvement.

However, we have to factor in:
>factor in aging veterans in our assessment for next year.
>factor in 2nd/3rd year ascending players....
>factor in the abnormal injury pattern on certain units

Then we have an idea that we are modestly better than last year.

But so are our key conference rivals that stand in our way: Seahawks, Cowboys, Falcons, Cardinals....and eventually Patriots who all get key injured players back, acquired FAs and infuse talent.

We have to improve more than they improve.

I don't think the Packers did improve more than Seahawks and Falcons. Maybe more than Cowboys and Cardinals.

So, it will take out-coaching (and luck) to play in February

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